Monday, October 05, 2009

The dyke of the Duchess Anne, and a series of posts.

La digue de la Duchesse Anne, Duchess Anne's dyke, was the first, mediaeval, attempt to hold back the sea from the coastal marshes around Mt St Michel. After that for several centuries more embankments and drains and such like were constructed, notably by the Dutch, but it wasn't until the 19th century that the cultivable and pasture land that makes up the Bay was finally secure.

La digue is now a well-surfaced motor-vehicle-free footpath and bridle- and cycle way, and it goes on and on from the Mont westward for a good 20 km, past saltmarsh and sands and sheltering settlements like Cherrueix in its lee. It's a very Dutch-looking landscape, of dykes and polders, lines of poplars, low-built farms, windmills even, and in fact the best way to explore it would be Dutch style, which is to say, by bicycle. Walking is fine; the air's a tonic, the space is wide and open and the views are great,

the thorn trees and grasses string out in the wind,

but you can walk and walk and very little changes except that the Mont grows a tiny bit bigger if you're walking towards it.

Which was what we were doing. But then I saw them: fence posts.

I think fence posts may be becoming something of a hobby with me (and they do say it's a fine line between hobby and mental illness). These were some of the most hypnotising I've ever seen.

Made of chestnut, I should think, heavy-grained, substantial and imposing, so that the the weathering and silvering of the salt winds and spray made them into the most dramatic of sculptures,

like fetishes or totems,

infibulated with wire,

chained and bound

some dignified, but some also sinister, bonelike,

their knots and graining, sometime elegant and abstract, or forming a refuge for living creatures

looked like mouths, tongues, sockets, or other openings and appendages,

and the eroded holes bored for the wire like eyes, animated by the living green of the world behind.

Their regular intervals and repetitious patterning increase the typological quality of the posts, and the compulsion to stop and study each one, its similarities and differences. I become more and more convinced they are trying to tell me something. Something not altogether happy or benign.

Unfortunately, not everyone could share my fascination,

or wait around for it. I find myself running between posts to keep up.


marja-leena said...

Oh, oh, I too love those posts! If I were there with you taking photos, I'd be straggling along too! What a great series, I could see these in print.

herhimnbryn said...

Great, great images L. I would have been straggling behind too.

Rouchswalwe said...

Now I know what I want to be for Halloween this year!
Once in central Japan, I saw wood that had been weathered for over 1,400 years. I was permitted to put my hand on the banister and when it was time to leave, I missed the feel of that wood. How must those posts have felt to the touch?

Catalyst said...

Fab Fotos!

HLiza said...

I was into rusty metal fence posts and wires these days..and now..oh've let me into a more dangerous love..wooden fence posts..oh how can I delete those pics from my mind..I'm so far okay coz I snap rusty fence photos when there's nobody around at home..(I do get occasional yell from my kids from inside the house.."Mom, are you okay?"! Ha ha ha..we don't have many wooden posts like those here unless I live in rural or country areas..but it's a very attractive challenge for me to find them..Lucy, lucy..what have you done to me..

Granny J said...

Beauties! I can understand your fascination. Totally.

Dale said...


Crafty Green Poet said...

what wonderful fence posts, well worth the series of photos!

Jean said...

Quelles photos extraordinaires !
Je les trouve si belles que je les ai copiées sur mon ordinateur !
De vraies oeuvres d'art !

Unknown said...

A post about posts! And such eyes and mouths! Did you notice in photo 3, that one of the plants stalks in the background had formed the letter "P"?

RB said...

The photo of Tom and Molly wandering off whilst you admired your posts made me chuckle. Actually I was already chortling a little as your post was not about what I thought it was going to be about when I read the title.

We have just had all the fence posts replaced on the common. I have no idea how ancient the old ones were but they were big and chunky and knobbly and I feel sure you would have liked them and probably gone to rescue them before the council carted them off. They have replaced them with decent posts though with caps of black painted ironwork. Very nice and horrendously expensive I am sure.

Roderick Robinson said...

I was struck that the posts are shriven of unnecessary material, cleaned down to their very roots, turned into art forms which somehow combine spareness with complexity. Then all became clear.

One post online to the next: Today's the day. Lucy's due. We will be ennobled, touched with grace and our images will go out into the world. We will supplant menhirs and be worshipped. Straighten up, kid, and look mysterious.

Which makes you a sort of John the Baptist. And Tom...?

The Crow said...

What I so deeply appreciate about your photography, Lucy, is how you find the breathtaking beauty in the mundane, overlooked parts of our world.

I, too, would go with you on your beauty-hunting jaunts. I would carry your bags, clean your shoes, run your errands, for the privilege.

Thank you for enriching my life this morning.


christopher said...

Lord, I love coming here when you decide to get intense. I am especially fond of the photo of your life companions going on ahead. I have been in that position often enough. Whyowhy don't my people like what I like? Heh.

Thanks, Lucy.

Bee said...

They are mesmerizing! I think that you captured the very best of them for us, though. (That pattern of having to sprint between pictures is very familiar to me.)

I particularly like the wide-open eyes: "animated by the living green of the world behind."

Meggie said...

Oh the faces to be found! Such wonder. Such wonderful observation, to share with us.

Rosie said...

they seem rather sinister to me...but it is 5 am and I cant sleep!

Lucy said...

Thanks all for saying such nice things. Sorry to be late getting back, the internet decided to go AWOL for a day or two after a storm.

Pam said...

They do make most striking photos. Not exactly pretty though. I think I prefer flowers, though, you know, I do see the appeal of fence posts too, now you mention it.

Anil P said...

Weathered by elements they do make for striking patterns. They seem to talk with the winds fairly regularly.